This text was instigated at Paragon Studios in Belfast for the exhibition PALISADE.
(Part of the #Peacewalls50 Series of events)
It will develop over the course the exhibition.
/ A Mesh Curtain is not a Peacewall /
In November 2013, a retractable steel mesh curtain is constructed in grounds of St. Matthews, Short Strand. Designed to be retractable when not needed, The Department of Justice (DoJ) requisitioned church land on the Newtownards Road for the fence. The aim is to stop missiles being thrown between the mainly unionist Newtownards Road and two streets in the predominantly nationalist Short Strand. Justice Minister David Ford emphasised that reducing the number of interfaces "remains a priority". This fence had been agreed with residents in the Short Strand and was a "proportionate and innovative measure". "The default position will be that it will remain open and indeed I envisage that this will be the case for the majority of the year. When closed, it will act as a barrier to projectiles thrown from either side of the interface." Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland said both sides of the community wanted the fence. "It's a practical solution to a practical problem," he said. "The truth is, it's regrettable that so far into the peace process and so long after the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, we're still finding it necessary to build walls or fences to protect one side of our community from the other. "The people who are important in this are the people who live in the shadow of these walls, who look to these walls for their protection, no matter what section of the community they come from. High ground moralising and political posturing on the (Stormont) hill should not take precedence over their fears, their needs and their hopes and aspirations." The DoJ, which is responsible for "peace walls" and interface fences, said it would work with the police and residents over when it would be deployed, in order "to minimise the impact on the community".
/ Photorealistic Depiction of Parkland /
The wall in Alexandra Park is comprised of segments that, tack-welded together, form a single, unified plane that cuts across whole of the park, drawing a distinction between one swathe of green parkland and another. In 2011 a gate was inserted into the wall, onto which was painted a photorealistic depiction of the landscape beyond. On 16th September of that year, the gate was opened and, for the first time in seventeen years, members of the local community crossed the park without digging holes underneath the wall or using ladders to climb over the top. Today the gate is open from 9.00am until 4.00pm and, when walking through, it is difficult to say if one is inside or outside.
/ Minority Report (Not the film) /
From the time of my initial receipt of the photocopied Taylor Report, it takes a further 22 months of correspondence with the Records Management, Cataloguing and Access Department of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland before the original 1971 Taylor Report, recently catalogued as PRONI – FIN/30/T/4 is released for public access on 25th of November 2016. I turn to the section of the report entitled “Minority Report by A. Hewins Esq”. The only dissenting voice in the report, Mr.Hewins states that: “I find myself in disagreement on the proposals that the divisions in the community should be accepted as a feature of life which must inevitably persist for a hundred years or more. This seems a council of despair”.